Truth be told, Inbox Zero is not my thing—having to get rid of new e-mails creates unnecessary anxiety for me and distracts me from the actions I need to take in relation to these messages.

Instead, I make sure that my inbox is processed, and there are always 10-15 e-mails lingering in there awaiting my next action.

Want to stop feeling overwhelmed by your inbox?

Here is a system to use:


For even more amazing done-for-you systems, download the free Systems Chick’s Guide to Transforming Busyness into Business.


1.  Never open your e-mail first thing in the morning.  Having to attend to other people’s requests from the very beginning of the day will put you in a reactive mode and may take over your entire day.

 Instead, start with a morning routine that will ground you.  It can be anything from taking a few minutes to create intentions for the day to savoring a cup of coffee or tea.  Then move on to 1-2 tasks that will definitely move your business forward.

 2.  Identify when you’re most productive during the day. Where do you fall on morning-evening spectrum?  Are you an early bird or an owl?

 When your creative juices are flowing, don’t waste this precious energy sorting e-mails.

3.  Determine the amount of time you can spend on email before you open your inbox and then stick to it.  Set a timer if it makes it easier for you.  E.ggtimer is a great one.

When your mind knows it’s up against the clock, you’ll be able to get more done in much less time, especially if you are dealing with not-so-important stuff.

If you finished before the time was up, more power to you!  Get out of your inbox and move on to the next task.   If not, when the timer goes off, make a note of where you finished, close your inbox and don’t let yourself work with it open (unless you  absolutely have to).

4.  Resist the urge to return to your inbox.  As you work, you might suddenly remember that you need to follow up with a client, send a reminder to a prospect or check dates in an email invitation.  Don’t do it if it’s not urgent.

The task that you think of as a one-minute affair is likely eat up one hour (if not more) of your time as you inevitably remember other things you need to do in your inbox.

5.  Unsubscribe from anything that pollutes your inbox.  

Set up a Google Reader account and subscribe to the RSS feeds from those sites.  You’ll still get the updates, but they’ll be neatly organized.

6.  Install Boomerang for even faster and more efficient e-mail processing.  You’ll receive reminders for the e-mails that don’t need to be answered right away (which will make your “Follow Up” folder obsolete), and it’ll help you schedule e-mails to go out at the right time.  Over time, it will train your audience to send you e-mails on certain days and times and give them a clear sense of when they’ll hear back from you.


Which one of the above practices can you commit to implementing this week?